One of the most celebrated horror franchises to ever grace cinematic screens is the Friday the 13th franchise. No one in 1980 could have ever imagined the sheer impact that the year’s first Friday film would stir in moviegoers, nor that this one film would produce a phenomenon of a franchise featuring an undead zombie named, Jason Voorhees, as the series’ figurehead. Yet, that’s exactly what happened, and here we are over 35 years after the original film’s release still celebrating the franchise. For a film about a killer on the loose on a camp, the franchise has had a surprising amount of longevity that continues to withstand the test of time to this day. Both the franchise and Jason himself have become staples of mainstream pop culture and have continuously made successful transitions into several different forms of media, such as video games, comic books, and even some tv shows.
With recent studio talks in place regarding The CW adapting a television series based on the franchise, Friday the 13th seems to be as relevant now as it’s ever been. Considering how we’re quickly approaching the Halloween season, we should all expect to see at least a few hockey masks on our block on October 31st. To get us all into that Halloween spirit and all the more ready to see those hockey mask wearing machete-wielding costumes, we should take a look at 13 moments from the horror franchise that’s harder to kill off than Jason Voorhees himself.
13. Friday The 13th (1980) – Almost Starred Sally Field
By the time Friday the 13th was released in 1980, Sally Field was riding a wave of momentum created by her roles in the Sybil mini-series, starring alongside Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, and her Oscar-winning turn in Norma Rae. It’s understandable why the studio wanted Field to play the lead role of Alice that would eventually go to Adrienne King. It is also understandable as to why Field turned down the part. Field was slowly rising to the top of Hollywood’s upper echelon thanks to her Oscar bait type roles. She likely did not want to tamper with her growing reputation by participating in a cheesy horror movie. As fascinating as it is to think of an alternate reality where Academy Award-winning Sally Field was the first final girl of the Friday series, it all worked out in the end. Again, the part went to Adrienne King and the role ended up being a defining moment in her career.
12. Betsy Palmer Hated Playing Pamela Voorhees
Oscar winner, Estelle Parsons (aka Blanche from Bonnie and Clyde), was originally asked to play the part of Mrs. Pamela Voorhees, but declined. Initially, Betsy Palmer had declined herself but started to have second thoughts because she needed the money. After her car broke down, she realized that she would need a new one, but couldn’t buy a new car without the money. When the Friday the 13th offer fell on her table, she figured a part that only required 13 minutes of her screen time would be an easy paycheck. Against her better judgment and confusion as to why anyone would want the actress behind Mister Roberts and The Tin Star to play a horror villain, she agreed to play Mrs. Voorhees. To this day, Palmer thinks that the film is a “piece of s***” and apart from a brief role in Part II, has tried her best to distance herself from the franchise.
11. The Ending Was Tom Savini’s Idea
Horror fans owe a lot of gratitude to legendary makeup artist, Tom Savini. Not only is he responsible for some of the most gruesome and grotesque looking practical effects in the history of the genre, but he also pitched the idea that Jason Voorhees would return from the dead at the end of the 1980 classic for one last jump scare. In the original script, young Jason remained dead for the entire film, but after seeing how the recently released Carrie film ended, Savini approached the filmmakers about how Friday the 13th needed a “chair jumper” of an ending. Savini told them “Let’s bring in Jason!” and after the favorable response from audiences, the studio brought Jason back for the sequel. From then on, Jason Voorhees became an iconic presence in the world of horror, all thanks to Tom Savini. There is a good chance that audiences would have never seen any of the sequels to Friday the 13th if not for Savini’s pitch.
10. Friday The 13th Part II: The Crew Thought Jason’s Return Was Stupid
Ironically, despite coming up with the idea to bring in Jason back for one last scare at the end of the first Friday the 13th, Tom Savini thought it was absurd to bring him back for a sequel. Apparently, he thought that extending Jason’s role as an adult killer was going too far and nonsensical. He couldn’t wrap his head around the thought of a big, tall, mountain of a man just slumming around the woods for 35 years without anyone seeing him once. The original director, Sean Cunningham, and writer, Victor Miller, thought the same thing and along with Savini refused to work on the second film. Ron Kurtz, who provided some uncredited rewrites on the last film, took over writing duties for the sequel while Steve Miner took over directing duties. Cunningham did return to help out Miner with casting and pre-production duties as a favor for a friend, but that’s it. This sequel’s concept ran off some major key players from the first film.
9. Friday The 13th Part III: The Hockey Mask Was A Lazy Decision
Friday the 13th Part III is most remembered as the first film where Jason picks up the hockey mask that he would be associated with for years to come. Although, the decision for Jason to go from wearing a burlap sack to a hockey mask isn’t as elaborate of a decision as some may think. Transitioning into Part III, Paramount realized that a burlap sack probably wasn’t the scariest thing that a serial killer should be wearing. They also probably realized just how much the image looked like a deliberate ripoff of The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Regardless of the reason, the studio needed a new mask but had no idea what that mask should look like. Instead of thinking long and hard about the decision, the Head of Effects knew that the 3D Supervisor had his own bag full of hockey gear and just took his Detroit Red Wings goaltender mask and added multiple holes with red markings. From then on, Jason had a mask that would solidify his image as a horror icon.
8. Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter – Ted Got High For Real
Method acting is not an easy task to commit to. Just as easily as it is for the technique to bring an actor incredible results, it is just as likely to backfire on that actor completely. The latter happened to Lawrence Monoson when he attempted method acting for the role of Ted in The Final Chapter. He might have over-prepared for such a small supporting role in a horror picture, but as a young up and coming actor, Monoson was convinced that he was going to make an impression on audiences. Knowing that his character would be high on marijuana during his death scene, Monoson thought it would help him get in the mindset of his character if he smoked a bag of pot before filming. On the contrary, instead of helping his performance, it hindered his performance as Monoson was too stoned to act out his scene without freaking out and getting paranoid. He managed to finish the scene, but on a high mind, it wasn’t easy.
7. Friday The 13th Part V: A New Beginning – This Was Originally Part III
Part V centered around the survivor from the last film, Tommy Jarvis, grown a few years older and in a mental health treatment facility as he was still dealing with the emotional trauma that came from hacking Jason Voorhees to smithereens. This story was originally penned for a much earlier entry into the series, since replacing Tommy with Ginny from Part II and we’ve got ourselves the original script for Part III. That script got scrapped when the actress who played Ginny, Amy Steel, decided not to return. However, the writers for Part V dusted off the Part III script from Paramount’s shelf, updated it to include Tommy Jarvis, tweaked a few basic ideas here and there, and Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning was born! Well, at least the script for Part III was reborn as Part V since it was literally given a new beginning, middle, and end.
6. Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives – Bringing Jason Back Was A Studio Decision
For many audiences, Part V was one of the worst parts in the film series. An argument can be made for it being a fun movie, but it is still pretty bad. One of the dumber moments came in its ending that revealed that the killer under the hockey mask wasn’t Jason, but some ambulance driver nobody remembered. Equally dumb was hinting that the franchise could’ve continued with Tommy Jarvis of all people as the new series’ killer. Paramount knew from the start that it was a dumb decision and decided to discontinue those plans after poor critical response to the film. When the studio started preparing for Part VI, they told Tom McLoughlin he could bring back Jason however he wanted when he signed on to write and direct. Just as long as Jason was the one and only killer. McLoughlin took the Frankenstein route and made Jason a zombie. Jason Lives is often cited as the first genuinely good Friday movie. Ironically, it took an undead Jason to revive the franchise.
5. Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood – Kane Hodder’s Audition For Jason
Friday the 13th Part VII marked the first time in the franchise where Jason Voorhees was played by Kane Hodder. Hodder was the man behind the mask throughout the series until Jason X, his final venture into the role to date. Before he donned the mask, Hodder had a rather unique audition. While doing stunt work on the set of the 1988 zombie movie, Prison, Kane Hodder had the idea to put live worms into his mouth as his character rose from the ground. The makeup artist for the film, John Carl Buechler, was so impressed by Hodder’s commitment to the part that when he was prepping to direct The New Blood, he insisted to Paramount that Hodder play Jason. Despite the actor who played Jason in Part VI already being signed on for Part VII, the studio obliged and brought in Hodder as a replacement and the rest, as they say, is history.
4. Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan – Money Screwed The Production
Money is the root of all things evil, and money is the major reason why Jason Takes Manhattan was such a bad film. The idea of Jason finally stepping out of his native Crystal Lake environment and into the urban jungle of Manhattan is a naturally thrilling concept with loads of potential. Unfortunately, the lack of a reasonable budget dampened that potential. Writer/Director, Rob Hedden, originally wrote more New York-based scenes that would’ve transported viewers to the city by the time the first act ended. Had these scenes fallen through, we would’ve seen moments like Jason boxing in Madison Square Garden and climbing the Statue of Liberty. Sadly, Paramount told him that the budget wouldn’t allow for so much filming in New York and Hedden was forced to rewrite most scenes to take place on the cruise. Jason didn’t get to Manhattan until the last third of the movie. In addition to that, Lar Park-Lincoln originally wanted to reprise her role as Tina from the last film, but asked for more money. With so many other financial issues, this was the worst time to ask Paramount for a higher salary and the studio decided to cut ties with her altogether.
3. Jason Goes To Hell – Jason Almost Had A Brother
When Adam Marcus first came onboard to direct the 9th Friday film, one of his original ideas for the story gave Jason a long lost brother. His story would’ve picked up where The New Blood left off (ignoring the events from Jason Takes Manhattan) with Jason at the bottom of Crystal Lake. That was until a mystery man (set to be played by Kane Hodder) would pull Jason’s body out of the lake and drag him to a cabin for a further autopsy in some sort of lab. Jason would awaken just as this man tore out Jason’s heart, bit into it, and absorbed Jason’s powers. This mystery man would later be revealed as Jason’s brother, Elias Voorhees. Marcus stated that this version of Elias would’ve been “far more evil than Jason.” However, this story would be scrapped in favor of what we got in Jason Goes to Hell. The only things which remain in the final draft are the idea of Jason’s abilities/soul being transferred from person to person and the name dropping of a man named Elias as Jason’s father.
2. Jason X – David Cronenberg’s Cameo Was Due To A Personal Favor/Request
Most horror fans recognize David Cronenberg as the director behind such body horror classics as Videodrome and The Fly (1986), but his face may also be familiar to those who have seen him make cameos in movies he had no backstage hand in behind the scenes. Jason X is one of those movies as he makes an appearance for the film’s opener. Although he did rewrite a bit of dialogue for his scene, fans were still giddy to see their favorite master of horror in their favorite horror franchise. However, none were as giddy as Cronenberg himself as he really wanted to be killed in a Friday the 13th movie. As a fan of the franchise, Cronenberg got to live out every Friday the 13th fan’s dream to write their own death scene for the film. His cameo was also a personal favor to Jason X director, Jim Isaac, who Cronenberg mentored years beforehand. Cronenberg asked to rewrite his death scene in order to ensure that his character “dies most excellently.”
1. Freddy Vs Jason – Took 10 Years, 18 Scripts, And Millions To Develop
When two of cinema’s biggest horror icons went head to head for the first time in 2003, no one would’ve dreamed that the match-up would ever happen. That includes the studio that produced it. Prior to 2003, the project had been in development chaos for the last decade. Way back when Jason Takes Manhattan set a record low box office number for the franchise, Paramount soured on the franchise’s money making potential and sold the rights to New Line Cinema for dirt cheap. Now owning the rights to both Jason and Freddy, New Line’s Head of Production, Michael De Luca, brought onboard the director of the first Friday, Sean Cunningham, to start working on Freddy vs Jason. However, Wes Craven’s unexpected interest in returning to the Nightmare franchise for New Nightmare delayed production. Meanwhile, Cunningham produced Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X. All three films were box office flops. In that time, De Luca resigned from the studio and New Line had spent $6.8 million on 18 unused scripts for Freddy vs Jason. When New Line finally settled on a script from the minds behind the upcoming Baywatch movie, production was finally underway. When it was all said and done, Freddy vs Jason grossed $114.9 million on a $30 million budget.